Vietnam POW Purcell Dies

Retired Col. Robert B. Purcell, an F-105 pilot and the 17th American taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, died Dec. 6 at his home in Fort Worth, Tex., at age 78. He had been in declining health since a 2005 fall left him paralyzed, according to news reports. Purcell was on his 25th mission over Vietnam when his F-105 was shot down in July 1965. He spent 17 months in solitary confinement and then was in the Hanoi Hilton until his release in February 1973, reports the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Other POWs credited the “stubborn, tough as nails” Purcell with helping them survive the ordeal. He was the one who raised spirits as some 50 POWs faced the infamous Hanoi March through angry, rock-throwing crowds by quipping, “Oh boy, I love a parade.” (Also read Courier-Journal report; quote from Air Force Magazine’s August 1999 article Honor Bound.)